August 31, 2018

Blog Note

I have just noted that some comments were not published in a timely manner because of something to do with Blogger's settings. I think it's all set now.

August 1, 2018

The Story of the Portiuncula

(From Assisi Compilation 56)
Seeing that the Lord willed to increase the number of brothers, blessed Francis told them: "My dearest brothers and sons, I see that the Lord wants us to increase. Therefore, it seems good and religious to me to obtain from the bishop, or the canons of San Rufino, or from the abbot of the monastery of Saint Benedict, some small and poor little church where the brothers can say their Hours and only have next to it a small and poor little house built of mud and branches where they can sleep and care for their needs.

July 7, 2018

Blessing My Friends at St. Peter's

Recently I enjoyed a visit from an old college friend and his wife, whom I had not met before. A particular and blessed dimension of the visit was that this friend from the time of my entrance into the Roman Catholic Church had himself converted to Eastern Orthodoxy this past Easter.

Religion and the faith didn't come up much during the visit; it was a short one in any case and maybe neither of us were sure how to talk about it with one another.

But there was one religious moment that has stayed with me.

On one of the days I went with them to see St. Peter's Basilica. We stood in the line and chatted. After passing through security and navigating the crowds marveling at and taking pictures of the Swiss Guards at the Bronze Door, we entered the Basilica.

Upon entering I did what I always do, as if by instinct: without regard to anyone's picture-taking or the explanations of guides I went straight to the holy water stoup under (I'm pretty sure) St. Teresa of Ávila, which is on your right as you go into the Basilica. It's what you do when you enter a church. You get some holy water and make the Sign of the Cross, como Dios manda.

When I turned around I saw that my friends had followed me up to the spot in front of the stoup. They asked me to bless them. So I got some more holy water on the ends of my fingers, sprinkled them with it, and blessed them with the Sign of the Cross and in the name of the Trinity.

In the craziness of St. Peter's in the middle of the day--I'm usually there before eight in the morning, when it's quiet and prayerful--and also probably distracted by hospitality and the thought of some business I had in the sacristy and whether I could get it done, I didn't think much of this little religious moment at the time. But as I say, it stayed with me.

There I was in this most recent church built over the tomb of St. Peter, the location for which is said to have been chosen by proximity to his martyrdom. This is St. Peter, on whose confession of faith the Lord builds his Church as the universal Sacrament of salvation, the sacrament by which the remission of sins accomplished by the Sacrifice of his Passion and death and the grace of the new creation inaugurated in his Resurrection come to us. And by the Sacraments of this same Church I have become first a vessel of these mysteries and then a minister of them, such that this explosion of grace through time and space, from that moment between Jesus Christ and St. Peter down through history, has come all the way to me, such that when I bless my friends, even in the chaos of St. Peter's in the middle of the day and the (much worse) chaos of my own mind, there arrives in my friends, in their identity as new creations by baptism, by means of my particular sharing in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, the blessing of God.

May 31, 2018

The Visitation and Charity

Today's feast, the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth as it appears in St. Luke, and the in utero encounter of Jesus and John, brings back for me one of my earliest catholic sense-memories. It was right around the time when I decided that my search for a spiritual home was coming to a conclusion; I would become a catechumen and seek baptism in the Catholic Church. It was around Advent 1991.

May 28, 2018

Gaudete et exsultate: The Examination of Conscience

May the Lord set the Church free from these new forms of gnosticism and pelagianism that weigh her down and block her progress along the path to holiness! These aberrations take various shapes, according to the temperament and character of each person. So I encourage everyone to reflect and discern before God whether they may be present in their lives. (62)
In obedience to the Holy Father, I have tried to make this examination of conscience that he encourages. And I admit that I feel rather stuck at least with regard to how I guess it is supposed to apply to me.

(Just as a caveat I want to say that in my opinion the terms pelagianism and gnosticism are used rather loosely in the document. But that would be another post.)

Of the dangers presented under "new pelagians," the one that I suppose would apply to me is "a punctilious concern for the Church’s liturgy." (57)

May 12, 2018

Gaudete et exsultate: Catholics Online

Christians too can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication. Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned. The result is a dangerous dichotomy, since things can be said there that would be unacceptable in public discourse, and people look to compensate for their own discontent by lashing out at others. It is striking that at times, in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth, which forbids bearing false witness or lying, and ruthlessly vilify others. Here we see how the unguarded tongue, set on fire by hell, sets all things ablaze (cf. Jas 3:6). (115)
I quote that section of James often enough with penitents; the tongue is a small organ but it gets us in all kinds of big trouble.

I first came online back in 1993 when I was a senior in college. Before long I discovered the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and its Catholic channels, as well as a Catholic listserv for which I promptly signed up. I was very innocent in those days, having been a Catholic for only about a year and with most of my knowledge of the Church having come from books, and I wasn't sure what to make of what I found, which was a lot of arguing and fighting. That's not to say that I didn't jump in myself when I knew that I was right about something ... because I had looked it up, thank you very much. I still have some of that attitude in me and it continues to get me in trouble. (More on that in the planned final post on Gaudete et exsultate, tentatively titled 'examination of conscience.')

May 9, 2018

Gaudete et exsultate: Little Choices

This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbor and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”. This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step. (16)
Just as theology is the queen of the sciences, which are only complete and reach their full flourishing under its light, so holiness is the first form of health within which all other well-being finds its rightful place and fullness.

And just as our bodily health is preserved and nourished by little, everyday choices, so it is with holiness. As Pope Francis points out, it is these small options for a turn to prayer, for charity, and especially for being willing to suffer for the good of another, that set us on the path towards being the saints God wills and delights for us to become.